Africa’s voice on Artificial Intelligence regulation must be heard in global talks
With the first summit on global Artificial Intelligence (AI) regulation due in the autumn, experts and stakeholders call for African voices to be represented in forming the new rules – digital inequalities must not be exacerbated by Artificial Intelligence.
The United Kingdom will host a global summit on safety in artificial intelligence in the autumn, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last month, amid mounting fears that the technology’s rapid advancement could spin out of control. In Africa, millions of people already see AI in many aspects of how businesses and NGOs currently work, such as while interacting with chatbots when booking flights. But, according to Hannah Ryder, CEO of Development Reimagined, many recent articles have warned that Africa may be lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to AI development, expressing fears that the region will be left behind. One article, for example, argued that “with limited training data matching African cultural and economic realities, the output of ChatGPT could be skewed toward reinforcing Western cultural and ideological hegemony.”
Other experts, such as Vincent Obia, who recently received his PhD from Birmingham City University, call on African countries to take a more active role in regulating AI. He points out that since the beginnings of the internet, Africa has largely been a receiver of new communication technologies, including recently the general-purpose artificial intelligence (AI), and the international regulations that they come with. Therefore, he argues that African countries need to harmonize their position on the comprehensive regulation of AI and canvass for an international protocol that the continent plays an active role in creating. The window for such an Africa-inclusive protocol may well be closing fast, Obia says. Noting that the pace of regulating AI on the continent is very slow, Kingsley Owadara, an AI researcher, cautions that Africa isn’t ready to have an AI act like the European Union because such legislation must be thoroughly formulated to reflect the modern realities and future aspirations of the continent.